OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Alvaro Orozco

Help Keep Alvaro Orozco In Canada

May 20th, 2011

Alvaro Orozco for Senate

Alvaro Orozco, a gay Nicaraguan who unsuccessfully attempted a refugee claim in 2007, was arrested late last week in Toronto while waiting for a bus on his way out to dinner with a friend. He’s now being held in detention without bail, and can be deported at any moment—unless he gets some serious community help.

I had posted several stories about Alvaro before he went into hiding, including a guest post (by proxy) from Alvaro himself. His story was typical for gay refugee claimants in Canada: He fled a country where homosexuality is illegal, but was denied refugee status because he wasn’t deemed gay enough by the adjudicator. Many refugee claimants are asked to provide impossible proof that they are gay, despite having to have hid all such evidence in their home country. In Alvaro’s case, the adjudicator questioned why he hadn’t actively sought out sexual partners while he was travelling up to Canada through the States. He was 14 at the time.

Since arriving in Canada, Alvaro has established himself in Toronto as a photographer, artist, and activist. Now 25, he has been hiding from immigration while awaiting the status on his last-resort Humanitarian and Compassionate application. This arrest puts his entire future in jeopardy, particularly since his story has already reached mainstream Nicaraguan newspapers and homosexuality, while now legal there, is widely not accepted..

Alvaro’s future can be influenced by community support, but we need to take action now. If you have a few seconds right now, please sign this online petition to Let Alvaro Stay in Canada. (Believe it or not, in refugee cases, community support like this can actually have a strong influence on the outcome.) Also, you can join the Let Alvaro Stay Facebook page where information about events and other avenues of support are posted. A lot of his personal friends are there too, so you can learn more about Alvaro’s story, his artwork, and community activities while you’re there.

Me, I’ll be pushing for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to give Alvaro a seat in the Canadian Senate. As you already know, many Canadians who have run into trouble with the law or have been rejected by voters (and thus society in general), have been appointed to the senate where they can safely sleep serve until they reach the age of 75—with a generous salary to boot. Normally I’d say this would be a long shot but, considering recent senate appointees… Alvaro’s head and shoulders above the lot of them.

Of course, whatever happens, we’re thinking of you, Alvaro!

Nicaraguan Law Spells Trouble For Canadian Refugee

November 26th, 2007


Alvaro Orozco, a gay refugee facing deportation to Nicaragua, is struggling to remain in Canada after his home country has started the process to decriminalize gay sex. While the reversal of Nicaragua’s invasive and discriminatory law is ultimately good news for gays in the country, homophobia and violence remains a problem.

Alvaro seeked Canadian citizenship after escaping Nicaragua at the age of 12 because his father beat him for being gay. His Calgarian adjudicator, Deborah Lamont, ordered his deportation, insisting that Alvaro failed to prove he was gay.

El-Farouk Khaki, Alvaro’s lawyer, said that repealing a gay sex ban won’t ensure the safety of his client:

The reality is that many queer people around the world still get persecuted in countries where homosexuality is not necessarily illegal. You have to take a look at societal attitudes and the police.

For more information on Alvaro and what you can do to help stop his deportation, read Ed Lee’s two-part guest post on Slap, which includes a plea from Alvaro himself.

Updates From The (Pink) Road

September 19th, 2007

Road Slap

Hey, kids! Well, I’ve successfully defended my master’s thesis, and now it’s time to head even further west to see family. While on the road, here are some stories and updates that caught my eye:

The town of Truro, Nova Scotia, has adopted an official flag-flying policy to avoid any more situations like this summer’s Pride flag fiasco, in which the mayor compared gays to pedophiles. The new policy is straightforward, too: From now on, government flags only.

Statistics from the 2006 national census are in, and when it comes to the same-sex figures, things are clearly up for interpretation:

Speaking of census data, a Calgary SUN article has asserted: “Calgary is holding the fort in a country where the notion of the traditional family is increasingly under siege, states a federal census.” Really? The federal census states the traditional family is under siege? Or perhaps this is just a little bit of phrasing bias coming from Alberta’s gayest city.

With all the attention Alvaro Orozco has been getting, there’s a great article in NOW magazine reminding us that this is not an isolated case. Leonardo Zuniga, another gay refugee, is slated for deportation within the next few weeks. Why not take a couple minutes to help him out?

Until Friday, kids!

Gay Refugee Speaks

September 17th, 2007

Guest Slap

Edward Lee is a student of social work at McGill university, focusing on gay refugee and imigration issues. In Part II of his two-part series, Ed has asked Alvaro Orozco to share his story in his own words, and outlines what we can do to help.

Alvaro Orozco is a young gay man who fled Nicaragua and is seeking refugee status in Canada. For numerous reasons it is unsafe for him to be in Nicaragua, including recent media attention in his country of origin, and the fact that it is a punishable crime to be gay there.

After months of advocacy and community action, Alvaro received his latest Pre Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) decision on Friday, September 14th. While the application was, again, rejected, Alvaro and his supporters were, fortunately, able to convince the immigration officials that he was not a flight risk and so he was allowed to go back to Toronto (versus getting arrested or deported immediately). The reasons behind the rejection included that the letters of support are “hearsay” and do not provide solid proof that Alvaro is in fact gay, and that Nicaragua is a safeplace because there are many cruising spaces, like parks and ruins where people can have gay sex.

Alvaro now is under a new deportation order for October 4th. Please read Alvaro’s thoughts on what is happening in this article and help him stay in Canada.

I asked Alvaro to write—from his own perspective—about what happened to him and the decision from the IRB. Here is what he had to say:

The Canadian immigration re-sent the letter from the old PRRA decision
of 2005 as my new decision for 2007 (9th august). In 2005, I used to have a different lawyer and I had lost my case. My new lawyer is El-farouk Khaki, who sent 3 months ago 2 new applications, the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) and the Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds application for a stay. Immigration told my lawyer that they had no record of him sending anything. so then immigration called my lawyer and told him that they want to give me one more time until the august 28. but on the 26th (2 days before the deadline), immigration called my lawyer telling him that they have the new application decision of the PRRA of 2007,
but I have to show up in Niagara falls on august 28 to pick up the
decision. And as i am not feeling well and my stress levels and anxiety are affecting my health, my doctor advised me not to go, so I didn’t show up.

one week after that, immigration called my lawyer and told him that
they issued a new date for me to show up to pick up the decision and that is on september 14, this is the 3rd time that immigration are dealing with this application, is clear what they are willing to do with me. to take me away from Canada.

my message:

Before I filed my case, I was hoping that I can be granted status in this country because this country is a model for human rights for many countries around the globe. But with the way things have happend, I feel disapointed and am struggling to get over it. This has affected me physically and emotionally. It is not fair the amount of struggles I had since I was a kid and that I never really had a normal life, and I escaped from many countries hoping to find freedom and respect in Canada. But now I am facing this situation where I am being judged on my physical appearance by canadian immigration autorities, and they believe that my life is just a joke and I never been through this kind of life, but I’m a honest person and I always keep what I say and I always work for my dreams. I keep my self positive that better things will happen and I can get over this.

the most important:

the most important for me is not only win my case, it is that other
people who feel scared to speak out can have a voice and someone who can speak for them but not only people who just speak about immigration issues, but people who care about human rights, about peoples future and equal respect.

There is still something that you can do to help raise awareness about what is happening and help Alvaro to stay in Canada. Here is what you can do:

  1. Check out his website and read the latest press release
  2. E-mail and/or send a letter to Federal Immigration Minister Diane Finley at Finley.D@parl.gc.ca. Let the MP in your riding know what is going on and ask them how they will help Alvaro.
  3. Sign Alvaro’s online petition
  4. Keep talking about Alvaro with friends, family, media, join his facebook group, etc.
  5. E-mail Alvaro and help keep his spirits up!
  6. If you want to do more please contact Suhail at SOY Toronto

Thanks again to Ed for sharing his thoughts on this story, and his communications with Alvaro. If you would like to see more of Ed, check out his short film, Invisible Son, included as a special feature on the Margaret Cho Assassin DVD.

Related Update: Bruce at Canuck Attitude has dug up a story about a convicted criminal in Canada whose deportation ruling was reversed because he is in the midst of a “religious conversion.” In the meantime, Alvaro’s safety is in danger because he can’t prove he’s gay. Outrageous.

Gay Refugee Needs Urgent Support

September 14th, 2007

Guest Slap

Edward Lee is a student of social work at McGill university, focusing on gay refugee and imigration issues. In Part I of his two-part series, Ed has agreed to share his stories and insights on Alvaro Orozco, a gay refugee from Nicaragua, who faces immediate deportation from Canada and urgently needs our support.

Alvaro Orozco will be going to the immigration office, today, Friday, September the 14th, to pick up his rejection letter from IRB. That is the only way he can fight the rejection, but at the same time, in going to pick up the letter, he very much risks being put in jail, or worse, deported on the spot to the USA (and eventually Nicaragua). Your support and well wishes are needed now more than ever.

First of all, I would like to thank Mark for allowing me some space on his funky, yet timely website to talk about this important current event. I love your cartoons and your intellectual wit! [Aw, shucks. Thanks, Ed!]

I first met Alvaro when he arrived for the first ever North American Outgames in Calgary (April, 2007). We held a youth welcome event at Quickdraw Animation Society, as we invited all the youth that had been granted a bursary to attend the week long festivities—including Alvaro. He was so personable, gentle in a way, with eyes that spoke of a life of hardship and hope. Very clearly gay, he was excited to meet the other queer youth gathered at this event, happy to be among his peers. There was no doubt to Alvaro’s gayness. No doubt at all.

I got to know him as he attended the OutRights conference, OutFest cultural activities (PRIDE dance) and finally winning a medal at the OutGames, in the running event. By the time he flew back to Toronto, Alvaro become someone that I had come to admire and respect, someone who is so hopeful and optimistic about the world, even though the world has been so cruel to him.

The memory that will never leave me was hearing Alvaro speak at the Youth Roundtable that we held at the North American OutRights conference (held in Calgary prior to the OutGames). Some 40 youth leaders (and those involved with youth issues) were sitting around the table; teachers, lawyers, activists. Then there was Alvaro, with his limited english and shy demeanor, as he was introduced and began to speak of his experience as a gay refugee, traversing 4 different countries to end up in Canada, speaking at this conference to help save his life and be granted refugee status.

All of us sat there, intently listening as he very bravely told his story. He began his story with growing up in Nicaragua, being seen as gay, and the abuse inflicted upon him by his parents. As he spoke about this abuse, he broke down, and wept. Even though I was co-facilitating, I couldn’t help but weep with Alvaro. After what felt like a lifetime, he regained himself, and continued his story. As his right hand moved in a rolling, circular motion, as if to comfort and help him to continue, he spoke of escaping Nicaragua, then being in hiding in the US, sometimes with homophobic churches, and then coming to Canada. His face began to light up as he spoke of Canada, where he finally began to feel a sense of hope of being able to live in a country where it wasn’t illegal to be gay (it’s illegal to be gay in Nicaragua—meaning you can go to jail).

Sometimes, there are moments in your life that stick with you, that are burned in your memory, an emotional scar, for better or worse, will always be felt when you close your eyes and take yourself back to that memory. All of us at the roundtable were shell shocked as Alvaro took us on a virtual ride of his unimaginable, powerful life. This was one of those moments for me, one of the most powerful moments I have ever been a part of.

How sad it is that Calgary Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Deborah Lamont was so clearly lacking in sound and equitable judgement when back in February, at his first hearing, didn’t believe Alvaro’s story (read the Globe and Mail article for actual quotes of what she said). How utterly insane and incomprehensible it is that 6 months later, after articles various news media, press conferences, rallies, and Alvaro’s participation at the Outgames/fest/rights, the IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board) came back with the same negative response—re-inforcing Deborah Lamont’s heterosexist and unfair judgement. Alvaro’s last recourse is to be granted a stay from Immigration Minister Diane Finley based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

I can’t tell you how sad and upset this makes me. I only knew Alvaro for a week, but I saw someone who was so vulnerable, who had so many incredibly challenging life experiences, and yet, even with these hardships, he is someone who is so kind, so extremely open to others and hopeful about living life in this country, safe from persecution, safe from harm. As we speak, because of the IRB negative response, Alvaro is in fear of being deported, unable to work, relying on the generosity of others, not wanting to be deported to the US and eventually to Nicaragua.

As I write about this, there is still something that you can do to help raise awareness about what is happening and help Alvaro to stay in Canada. Here is what you can do:

  1. Check out his website and read the latest press release
  2. E-mail and/or send a letter to Federal Immigration Minister Diane Finley at Finley.D@parl.gc.ca. Let the MP in your riding know what is going on and ask them how they will help Alvaro.
  3. Sign Alvaro’s online petition
  4. Keep talking about Alvaro with friends, family, media, join his facebook group, etc.
  5. E-mail Alvaro and help keep his spirits up!
  6. If you want to do more please contact Suhail at SOY Toronto

Gay Refugee Goes Into Hiding

August 29th, 2007

Hiding Gay Refugee

Alvaro Orozco, the Nicaraguan refugee ordered to be deported from Canada, has gone into hiding.

Homosexuality is illegal in Nicaragua and Alvaro had been threatened with violence if he returned, but his Calgarian adjudicator, Deborah Lamont, said he hadn’t sufficiently proved he was gay and ordered him to be deported. Since then, all opportunities for appeal have been exhausted.

I’m not sure what the Immigration Refugee Board is thinking, considering that Alvaro’s story has been published in the Nicaraguan media. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether or not he can prove he’s gay at this point; his safety is threatened.

Gay Refugee To Be Deported

August 10th, 2007

Refugee Test

Alvaro Orozco, the 21-year-old refugee who was denied Canadian citizenship because he didn’t look “gay enough” now faces immediate deportation. Alvaro originally fled Nicaragua, where homosexuality is illegal, and made his way up to Toronto, where he has been living for the past two-and-a-half years.

Calgarian adjudicator, Deborah Lamont, originally denied the refugee claim in February, saying that if Alvaro were really gay, he would have been sexually active. Though Alvaro was only a teenager when he made his refugee claim, all avenues for reversing Deborah’s sex-based decision have been denied.

So let that be a lesson to all you future refugees: If you want to base your claim on being gay, the refugee board demands that you be as flaming and promiscuous as possible. Otherwise you’re just one of those fakers.

Update: Slap reader Sheena writes in with some last-minute info: “If people are still interested in advocating for Alvaro, his website still says his supporters can write to Minister of Immigration Diane Finley and ask her to intervene in his deportation – it’s his only hope. It’s worth a shot!”

Definitely worth a shot. Head over there if you’d like to help out, kids!

Refugees, Flags, Censorship, and Constitutionality

June 15th, 2007

Mini Slaps
Let’s do the follow-up thing today:

  • Alvaro Orozco, the refugee who was denied Canadian citizenship because he didn’t look “gay enough” is still facing deportation to Nicaragua where homosexuality is illegal. The application to re-open his case was dismissed, but there’s still a chance he could file a standard application for immigration from within Canada on humanitarian grounds. Sadly, pretending to be gay to obtain refugee status is not uncommon, but the circumstances under which Orozco’s application was denied were downright silly.
  • Niagara Falls officials have replaced the Pride flag that mysteriously vanished less than four hours after its raising ceremony. Thankfully they have “some ideas” to make sure this one stays put. At the top of the list: piping in Kylie Minogue to create an appropriate anti-heterosexual radius.
  • The City of Ottawa has adopted policies ensuring that Capital Xtra, a gay community newspaper, cannot be censored from city community centres. The paper was removed from a public facility after Greg Evans, a local man, complained that his son could have seen it at basketball practice. Though the paper’s censorship was illegal, I can attest to the dangers of gay community newspapers: The last time I picked one up, I got a paper cut.
  • The federal conservatives’ scrapping of the gay-friendly Court Challenges Program has turned out to be illegal. According to a report by the official languages commissioner, removing public funding to challenge unconstitutional laws violated Officials Languages Act. The government, in the interests of transparency and accountability, has not responded.

Well, have a great weekend kiddos!

Happy Valentine’s Day Update

February 14th, 2007

Valentine’s Day Update

Happy Valentine’s Day, kids! Love it or loathe it, it’s an existent holiday and that can only mean one thing: It’s time for me to post a lazy update on old stories!

Alvaro Orozco Might Stay

Alvaro Orozco, the Nicaraguan man who was to be deported for not being “gay enough” has been allowed to stay in Canada for two more months. His lawyer is using that time to arrange an application for citizenship based on “humanitarian and compassionate grounds.”

If you’d like to help Alvaro, visit his website for information on what you can do.

Canadians Like Gays, But Not Too Close

While nearly one in five Canadians would dislike a gay neighbour, a sizable majority would like to see those gay neighbours explicitly protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 62% of Canadians responded that they’d support explicit provisions in the Charter to ensure equality for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation. In addition, 54% of respondents said that the final word on issues involving Charter rights should be decided by the courts, and not parliament.

Hey, do you think that means we’ll be getting our Court Challenges Program back?

Well, until Friday, have a great Valentine’s Day!

Refugee Deemed “Not Gay Enough,” Deported

February 9th, 2007


A gay Nicaraguan man who fled his country at the age of 12 will be deported from Canada.

Alvaro Orozco had been seeking refugee status in Canada after swimming across the Rio Grande, making his way up through the states, and finally settling in Toronto. Orozco claimed that his father threatened to kill him for being gay, and that he didn’t feel safe in Nicaragua where homosexuality is still illegal. Strangely, his Calgarian adjudicator, Deborah Lamont, refused to hear him out, saying that if he were gay, he should have been sexually active:

I found the claimant’s many explanations unsatisfactory for why he chose not to pursue same-sex relationships in the U.S. as he alleged it was his intention to do so and he wanted to do so.

He is not a homosexual […] and fabricated the sexual orientation component to support a non-existent claim for protection in Canada.

Alvaro, incidentally, was only a teen when he made his claim for refugee status. His lawyer, El-Farouk Khaki, is furious with the decision, and said it showed a lack of understanding about gay teens:

Did [Lamont] expect all gay teens to be sexually active at 14, 15, 16 years old? That’s horrid.

You’ve got a kid who’s run away from home because he’s had the crap beaten out of him by his dad because he’s different, because he looks gay, because he doesn’t behave like the other boys or his brothers.

Alvaro is, of course, seeking a stay on the deportation order. In the meantime, adjudicators clearly have some well-defined expectations for gay men, so here are some quick tips to help conform to their image:

  1. Remove all songs from your iPod except for generic House music
  2. Try to book Snagglepuss as a speech therapist
  3. Shriek whenever you see someone that resembles Madonna
  4. Wear one of these fine costumes: Policeman, Construction worker, Indian, Cowboy, or whatever stereotype that leather-clad guy is supposed to be
  5. Carry around papers labeled “The Homosexual Agenda” and distribute them to school children

Good luck, Alvaro!

Update: Sheena, a youth centre worker, has informed me that Alvaro’s friends and allies have set up a website containing information on what you can do to help him out. Check it out!